Friday, 28 August 2015

Do You Still Love Us?

By Carl Hansen

The public schools in our area are back in session for a new school year. And this, of course, brings to mind two significant “rites of passage.”

One is the first day of school when, with a mixture of pride and tears, we watch our children as they board the bus or as we let go of their hand as they walk through the school house door for the very first time.

The second comes years later. That’s the day when we send the last of our children off to college; that day when we, as a couple, realize we are now officially “empty nesters.”

This is the rite of passage our middle daughter and her husband are experiencing this fall as our youngest granddaughter leaves their home to head off to college. As we watch this unfold via emails and Facebook, it brings back a memory of the fall when we experienced the same thing for the first time.

None of our four children had any interest in staying home to attend college. They certainly did not want to attend the college where I was the president. Nor did they want to go to the college where I had been a professor for 15 years in the small town where they had spent their younger years.

So, when the time came, one by one they headed off to the college of their choice in various parts of the U.S. until the youngest joined the exodus. And that, of course, left my wife and me as the “essential two.” And thus, our first taste of the empty nest.

Later that year ,all four came home for Christmas. Meal times were once again occasions filled with conversation and laughter. Our family is quite verbal so these times together not only provided food for our bodies but joy for our souls.

A standing joke in our family is that sometimes it almost seemed necessary for one wanting to talk to raise their hands similar to a classroom setting when everyone was eager to speak at once.

This was not usually an issue for the six of us (shyness at expressing ourselves is not part of our DNA.) The only time it became an issue was when one of them brought home a significant other to meet the family for the first time.

More than once it was clear they were baffled to be part of our non-stop stream of family conversation.

On the first holiday after our empty-nest status had begun, not long after the evening meal had ended and each of us had settled into post-supper activities in various parts of the house, one of our daughters sought us out. She said, “We need to talk,” (four words that strike fear into a parent’s heart.)

It turned out that she was the selected spokesperson to ask a question on behalf of her siblings. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, this was their question: “Do you still love us?”

To answer that one, we needed to ask for clarification for the question seemed to come out of left field. The reason behind the question was simply this: “Because you seem so happy.”

Truth be told, we were happy. Happy, certainly, to have the whole family home safely for the Holidays. The kids could see and sense that but that was not the reason for the question. Their question was rooted in their sense that we seemed happy in our newly arrived status of living in an empty nest.

They were worried that somehow the adjustment we had made to that meant we somehow no longer loved them.

We missed them; no question about that. But we were also enjoying the fact that our lives went on. We had our own daily agendas that were meaningful and fulfilling, as well as times we could spend together as a couple.

We could set our dinner times where we wanted them; not according to their daily schedules. And, or course, we were able to converse (or not) at meal times without raising our hands to speak. And best of all, we could set bed time where we wanted it knowing we would not need to have one ear cocked to hear the garage door go up or the front door opening, signaling their safe arrival home late at night.

Of course we loved them and we love them still even as some of them now share our status as empty nesters. We loved them deeply during their years in our “nest.” And hopefully those years of love created the roots that have enabled them to stretch their wings and leave our nest to create their own lives.

By the way, we are still happy. And we still love them.


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Thursday, 27 August 2015

Leading the Simple Life

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

When I stopped work I made a vow
To simplify and seize life now.
I see the years are flying fast;
Who knows if one will be the last?

For work I donned a business suit
Before I left for my commute.
Today old clothes are what I use
And sneakers are my only shoes.

With ease I grew a full grey beard
Where once my naked face appeared.
Now I enjoy the time I’ve saved,
To savor life since I last shaved.

The Web’s become my go-to store,
So shopping’s made an easy chore.
To shop I surf the Internet;
It makes life good as it can get.


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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dreams

From Clifford Rothband

I hope that I speak for more than myself, or maybe the "Minions,” the children of our imaginations.

I can remember some of my dreams as vivid as reality. I have read that dreams are only an area of escape where we can ponder our life experiences with how we wish the future to actually be. Just a dream, all of our plans and schemes.

I am thankful that I have not achieved all that I dreamed of or desired. That would have denied me so many opportunities.

Now I might be one of those crazy people who carries there favorite photos around in a portable library. My iPhone. I am one who trekked to Washington, District of Columbia with my grand kids and at about two in the morning, we visited and took a few pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King's Memorial.

I thought I had also recorded his speech, "I have a Dream.” No, the speech was lost to static or interference or the conversations and the rain noise filtered the words.

Now I am proof that dreams can come true. Not as I might have envisioned. Still look at me, I led a hard life and I got it all. I remember reading that life is tough, and nobody makes it out alive. The rewards came when I least expected them.

After my formal education, after a stint in the Army, 27 months including less than a month in Vietnam, combat that is, returning home, my field had dried up. There were no jobs available. Or was it that Vietnam was a dirty word, included in the prejudice that steered my life.

My trip to Vietnam was unexpected. Some guys wanted to he heroes; their lives were small and they had to prove there value or worth. I was drafted, a wife and just-born son.

I wanted to be a winner. Winners are the survivors. Survivors write the history. I remember my dreams vividly. Realizing now that thought and truth are not synonymous. The fear was real, or was it the excitement, which are really indistinguishable.

Fear robs us of the chance of new experiences. I have learned to look at the big picture. To be bold, to savior the moment.

I have often been told to write a book. Was it a malicious suggestion? Or a compliment? I feel that the opportunity to express myself on the Internet is one of my dreams come true. I can imagine the audience - without stage fright, no less! We each of us are not anonymous, so I sign my real name. Am I a hero? To the family that I created, yes.

We have a presidential election coming up. I fear the candidates who spiel war, although never knowing the fear, the torment of our family or even how to operate a weapon with proficiency.

My dreams were my mantra. My father was an abandoned kid. I wanted a family and love more than anything tangible. So things didn't work out as planned. Both my grown children are single now, products of our culture.

Yes, I have two grandchildren. A BIG red dog. Interdependence and love and respect, if not always hugs and kisses.


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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Right (DNA) Stuff

By Wendl Kornfeld

A few years ago I submitted DNA samples to the National Geographic’s Genographic Project. As described in their website, my participation was “to help answer fundamental questions about where humans originated and how we came to populate the Earth.”

By the way, it’s not like on TV where the suspect submits a DNA sample with just a quick swab. This sampling required a 45-second vigorous rub inside each cheek.)

After several months of testing, I received an on-line, very detailed analysis with maps that showed how my DNA traveled north from Africa, changing here and there as ancestors interbred with other tribes in their pursuit of food and trade. There were a few surprises.

Whereas I’d assumed most of my DNA would be Northern/Middle European, I was actually more than 50 percent Mediterranean and Asian. I reconsidered my cultural heritage, wondering if leanings in certain areas might now be more easily explained, although I didn’t want to over-think how that tiny percentage of Neanderthal DNA might be currently manifesting!

But the most significant result of having my DNA analyzed was how it has changed the way I now try to handle the stress, inconvenience and discomfort of everyday situations. I started comparing my concepts of hardship or deprivation with what my ancestors went through.

Going back just one generation, my parents struggled to make it through the Great Depression, then they endured hardships imposed by the Second World War. Nothing I’d experienced so far could compare.

My four grandparents made long, arduous passages to America taking them from cherished family members they were virtually guaranteed never to see again. The decision to leave loved ones and homeland was not a hankering for a jolly lark abroad but because conditions at home had become too difficult, too hopeless to endure, too frightening to anticipate.

Once in America, they had to quickly learn a new language, find ways to make a living and swear their allegiance to a country they barely knew beyond a few city blocks. Talk about coping skills!

Going back thousands of years, I imagine generations of my ancestors traversing the globe in search of food, enduring cruel climates, fighting off wild animals and bandits. Endlessly roaming strange and dangerous lands hoping survival and prosperity would be found on the other side of a mountain or across a sea.

For millennia, men and women with courage and resiliency found the strength to keep on, to adapt or start over all over again. My ancestors would have scoffed at some of the things I think are so tough nowadays.

So, when I’m feeling too lazy to drag myself out for groceries, I call upon that DNA-self that once battled blizzards and droughts in search of food. Rather than fret about being in the steamy and crowded subway, I recall my grandparents enduring dark, nauseating months crossing the Atlantic in steerage class having no idea what awaited them. I re-define what I might label a “problem” and believe that an adventure can be an inconvenience rightly considered.

The sum total resolve and resourcefulness that served and protected my ancestors for thousands of years is alive and well in my cells today. I am made of the right stuff. We all are.


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Monday, 24 August 2015

Holeier Than Thou

By Herchel Newman aka Herm

My father often wore his favorite blue, yellow and red striped shirt. I noticed a hole had appeared right in front. He was portly so that hole clamored to be noticed.

I picked up my parents for what had become a monthly breakfast date. As I held the restaurant door for them, the hole caught my eye as Dad walked by. He had new, unopened shirts at home. They weren’t pullover though and not as colorful.

I waited till we got home to point out the hole and made light of it. "Dad, I didn’t know you ate that many pancakes." I put my finger in the hole. He flinched.

I said, "You wear this shirt a lot. I have a few favorites but I guess you’re going to have to retire this one."

He said, "Oh this little hole is hardly noticeable."

"Dad, with your white T-shirt as a background, it’s more noticeable than you think.

"Ain’t nobody payin' that hole no mind." He shucked it off.

I needed to intervene or Dad would continue to wear the shirt. I mentioned it to my brother. He became animate. He said, "I know the shirt! That hole catches my eye every time."

I purchased two pullover shirts and took them with me to make my pitch.

Curiosity grabbed him. "Whatcha got son?"

"Dad, check these out." I displayed the two shirts on the coffee table. One was a brown and tan. The other was blue with white stripes. "Dad, you can choose the one you like and I’ll take the other."

He began to consider each.

I said, "Before you choose, there’s one condition." His eyebrows turned down. "You have to agree to get rid of that shirt with the hole in it."

He looked confused. "What shirt?"

"You know, that blue striped one with the hole in it."

He couldn’t seem to recall the shirt in question. All right Dad, pick the one you want and I’m sure you’ll remember the shirt the next time you begin to put it on. I don’t want to see you in that shirt again. Agreed?

He agreed and chose the blue and white striped one. Mission accomplished...?

It was time again for our breakfast date. When Dad came into the room and announced that he was ready to go, that hole was yawning at me. I smiled joylessly and hung my head.

Dad asked, "What’s wrong?"

I said, "Dad, you remember the blue shirt with the hole in it I told you about when I gave you the new shirt in exchange? Well, this shirt you’re wearing is it and this hole is growing."

He stepped back when I tried to put my finger in it. “We had a agreement, so we’ll wait while you go change.”

"That little hole ain’t causin' nobody a problem but you. Just don’t look at it. I’m ready to go." He’d dug in to make a stand.

Mother, gave me a look like, “Leave it alone, Herchel.”

I told my brother about the incident. He said, "That’s what is known as set in your ways."

Update: I entered the kitchen and greeted my wife. I prepared for a bowl of cereal. She watched intently like a radar locked on a target.

"Is there something on your mind?"

She answered quickly, "Yes there is. I’ve got something to say but I don’t want it to embarrass you or hurt your feelings"

"It’s just you and me so go ahead. I’m a big boy now."

She began. "I want to know, why you insist on wearing that shirt with the hole in the belly all the time? Are you aware of how much you wear that shirt? I can’t look at you without that hole starring back at me. Of all the shirts you have, why do you continue to wear that one?"

"It’s just a shirt, Honey, and it’s not like I wear it with a suit and tie." I went into protect mode.

She continued, "I’m just tired of seeing it. It’s red and draws my attention. I see red in more ways than one!"

I finished my Cheerios then began vacuuming the floors. While working, I remembered Daddy and his holey shirt. I saw red as in bloodline red. Is it the bloodline of Dad and I or just an old man thing?

I’ve got a sewing kit, but I don’t think that’s the answer. When I dust, I’ll use my new red rag.


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Friday, 21 August 2015

The Future of the Mind

By Ross Middleton

Must there be an exchange
Between the interfaces of mind and machine?
Some require it
It could be dangerous
The experiment done
It could be disruptive

People seem to want to make more of machines than they are
They often want them to respond as people
It's interesting to ask whether they ever will
Or will they stay as they have always been
Tools to help us
To enhance our lives
To take some of the burden
And yet sometimes create more

The mass of information piles up
We know information is not knowledge
But the machine doesn't

Today there are thousands of things to refer to
Our attention is taken
And our concentration poor
Prune what is available
If need be let it be neat
Cut back as much as is necessary
Something may flower eventually


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Confidence

By Henry Lowenstern

Cautiously, I face the day,
confident that, come what may,
I'll defeat
any obstacle I'll meet
in the most decisive way.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Do Overs

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

This past weekend I was thinking about reincarnation and some of the different philosophies on the subject. I am currently reading the book, Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss. It is a true story about his experience with a patient and past-life regression therapy.

The book is interesting but I am certainly not schooled on the concept of reincarnation although I’ve been interested over the years.

I think it was especially inviting during those periods in my life when I felt a sense of hopelessness. The times when I felt that life just wasn’t ever going to get any better. It was at those times that the idea of getting a chance to do it over again and perhaps “get it right” was a comforting thought.

In the next life I’d be sure to be successful in love and remain a size six (might as well get everything right) and not get married until AFTER I finished my education.

But I guess we all wish for a “do over” at some point in our lives. We know that sometimes in life we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again if we don’t learn from them. We’ve all seen people pick the wrong woman or man time and time again and each one a carbon copy of the last.

But there is always hope - and that hope is that when we know better we will do better. That to me is the appeal of reincarnation. An opportunity to hope that this ISN’T all there is.

In my vision of reincarnation, I would like to think that bigoted people come back as those they were prejudiced against. Or that a male chauvinist pig for example would come back as a woman in Iran. Talk about karma.

We are on this earth for just a brief time but we are growing and learning hopefully all the time. It seems ironic that by the time we have gained any wisdom we have reached the end of our life cycle.

It would almost seem reasonable that if we were to return again with just a little bit of that prior knowledge to build upon we might just get it right.

I suppose reincarnation is the ultimate in recycling.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

One Day Closer

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

It’s always one day closer
To an end, yours most importantly:
It‘s that that counts
As days mount up inexorably.
Soon- or later, the debates are
What you do with time - your time: the in-between,
And what is worthy on this earthly sojourn?
I have answers.
There are answers: wo/man/swers!
Don’t waste a day,
The-closer-to-an-end,
But face it, for each second
Is one second closer…


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Consuming Love

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

When Praying Mantis couples court,
Their love affairs are very short,
For, after hot sex with their dates,
The females gobble up their mates.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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